DALI has a reputation for making loudspeakers that are both affordable and musical. This reputation is well deserved, but even this did not prepare me for the performance delivered by the OBERON 9 floor standers. It is easy to picture the design meeting in which the engineers at DALI told the marketing team, “Let’s take a very high-end monitor that uses our 29mm tweeter, a world-class 7-inch mid-woofer, and offer it for $2,500 a pair. Let’s not stop there, though. Let’s add a pair of long-throw 9-inch woofers and put the entire package into a four-foot-tall enclosure with a tuning frequency of about 30Hz and a full range performance from 25Hz up to and beyond 20,000Hz. We will also put a lot of the technology developed for our EPICON series speakers into this OBERON series, just to make the competition nervous.”
The marketing guys start wondering what the engineers have been drinking to come up with such an outrageous speaker concept. These maniacs are planning to deliver an ultra-low distortion, high output, deep-bass-making speaker system that can be sold for $2,500 retail? What’s next, are you lunatics also going to suggest it can be driven to clean and high SPL levels with an ordinary integrated amp from companies like NAD, Akitika, or Cambridge Audio?
It turns out that DALI has managed to do all of this by using excellent drivers designed in-house and keeping the cabinet work simple and elegant.
Dali Oberon 9 Floor-standing Loudspeaker
- Exceptionally wide and linear frequency response
- SMC technology introduced into more affordable speakers
- Wood fiber woofer and midrange
- Wide dispersion pattern
- Elegant cabinets with integrated aluminum base
- Simple to position in any room
- Does not require an expensive amp
- Can handle lots of power
- Your friends will think you spent a lot more
A few months ago, after being asked to review the DALI SPEKTOR 2 speakers, I gave our senior editor Carlo Lo Raso a less than enthusiastic OK. They are $400 per pair, and I had just finished reviewing the almost $8,000 per pair Harbeth SHL5plus XD stand-mounted speakers. Testing speakers at one-twentieth the price, at first glance, was not exciting. Then it hit me that I was demonstrating some serious audio snobbery, and after some well-deserved self-criticism, I decided to treat the SPEKTOR 2s with the same attention to detail that the Harbeth speakers had received. The little DALIs were so good that, after finishing the review, I asked if there would be interest in doing a review of a more expensive and capable loudspeaker. This led to my doing a lot of research into every model DALI offers, and when I was done researching, I settled on the OBERON 9 loudspeakers.
The OBERON 9s are intriguing.
They incorporate much of the technology found in DALI’s more expensive speakers in a simpler cabinet that works with the laws of physics instead of against them. These are $2,500 speakers that perform well above that price in every way.
Frequency Response (+3dB):
Sensitivity (2.83 V/1 meter):
Maximum SPL (1 meter):
Recommended Amp Power:
780Hz & 3.4kHz
29mm soft dome
7-inch wood fiber
2x 9-inch wood fiber
Dimensions (H x W x D):
46.1” x 13.38” x 16”
Black Ash / Dark Walnut
DALI OBERON 9 Floor Standing Loudspeakers Price:
Loudspeaker Reviews 2022, dali, oberon 9, floor standing speaker, tower speaker
The DALI OBERON 9 Floor Standing Speakers are moderately large in stature, standing almost four feet tall. In appearance, they are handsome without a lot of the furniture quality that more expensive speakers, including some of DALI’s own models, feature in their enclosures. There are no curved sides and the finish itself is a very high-quality vinyl. In the case of the OBERON 9s, the finish would not look out of place in an HGTV home makeover designer wood sample. Everything about the OBERON 9s is based on delivering a lot of great sound for the money.
The exterior of the OBERON 9s may be simple, but the technology that DALI puts into them is impressive. The OBERON series is the most affordable speaker line that DALI produces which uses their SMC technology. Soft Magnetic Compound (SMC) was developed for the top-of-the-line EPICON series of loudspeakers. It is a coated magnet granule that can be made into a variety of shapes. The intent is to allow for high magnetic conductivity and low electrical conductivity, which in turn allows for very low mechanical loss in the magnet system. The benefit is reduced distortion. This claim will be explored further in the measurements portion of this review.
The dual 9-inch woofers and 7-inch midrange driver are wood pulp reinforced with wood fibers. This allows for a lightweight driver that is also quite stiff. An added benefit of the wood fibers is a reduction of standing waves across the driver’s face. DALI has also engineered a very lightweight voice coil. This voice coil combines with proprietary surrounds to allow for what the company calls “low loss” in their drivers. This design makes the OBERON 9s an easy load to drive, which is important in a value for the dollar loudspeaker. The OBERON 9s can be driven to quite loud levels with many of the under-$2,000 amplifiers on the market. The tweeter is a DALI tradition, an ultra-lightweight 29mm soft dome unit with broad dispersion and solid engineering.
The enclosure itself is also well thought out. The dual 9-inch drivers are each tuned to about 30.5Hz, with each getting its own sub enclosure and port within the cabinet. The 9-inch drivers allow the OBERON 9s to reach well below 25Hz in-room. This is remarkable in a $2,500 speaker system. The 7-inch driver gets its own dedicated sealed sub enclosure, and the overall package promises a lot of performance across the bandwidth.
The final touch is the integrated base. There is no assembly required, and the base adds elegance and stability to this floor stander that belies its price. The overall look of a pair of OBERON 9s in one’s room is a strong tower speaker which has a lot in common with speakers from the late 1970s like the AR-9 and JBL L-150’s. They make no apologies for having their size dictated by physics.
The DALI OBERON 9s arrived on a pallet and were delivered well packaged in stout cardboard boxes with thick foam protection around the speakers. The bases are permanently attached to the cabinets, making setup exceptionally easy. DALI speakers are known to not require any toe-in, and the OBERON 9s are as flexible to room placement as one could hope for in a pair of high-end loudspeakers. After some experimenting, they ended up 30 inches from the back walls and 32 inches from the sidewalls in our 44×14.5×7 foot listening area. The listening room itself was constructed with a lot of attention focused on creating a great listening experience. The walls are concrete, with several inches of insulation behind sheetrock. The floor is also concrete, and the room itself is quite inert. I have sent several manufacturers’ response curves of speakers in this room with no correction applied, and all have responded with a wish that I send this room to them for their home.
We used a variety of components with the DALI’s, all with excellent results. Preamps were the Akitika PR-102 and Cambridge Audio’s Edge NQ. The muscle was provided by the Akitika GR-102, Axiom 1500-4 (using 2 of the 4 channels), and the Cambridge Audio W stereo amp. My source was the Yamaha CD-2100 CD/SACD player. The cables were Blue Truth Reference speaker cables and Blue Truth Ultra Reference XLR cables from Better Cables. Other speakers on hand for comparison are Harbeth SHL5plus XD, Axiom LFR-1100 Active, Magnepan LRS, Starkesound IC-H2, and Ohm Walsh SSC-4900. No subwoofers were used in the review.
In any review, this is where the fun begins. “In use,” by definition, means listening tests. The DALI OBERON 9s promise to deliver a full range experience with exceptional macro-dynamics (macro-dynamics is geek-speak for they can play really loud). Let’s hit these speakers with everything we have. They are going to have to deliver on discs that feature 20Hz bass. They are going to be exposed (either in a good or bad way) to fine acoustic guitar tracks. Why not add some rock opera style orchestra to the mix, too? Let’s find out how much thrill one gets for the $2,500 entrance fee!
Roger Waters “In The Flesh SACD”
Recorded over 20 years ago, In The Flesh remains a manifesto of an evening of pure rock history. This disc features an impressive array of sonic wonders, and it takes a tour de force speaker to bring all the majesty that the band put into this performance. Snowy White’s playing on his Les Paul guitar is inspiring, and the DALI’s let you “watch” him as he crossed the stage.
“Welcome To The Machine” opens with a semi-truck and synthesized bass that centers in the 25Hz range and the OBERON 9s brought subwoofer level bass that allowed one to feel it in the chest. In “Mother,” the soaring female vocals come through without a hint of harshness. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is 14 minutes of all things Pink Floyd. A speaker needs to have a very large presence to bring the opening guitar riffs out with realism. Done right, these riffs will be above the room and outside the walls, crossing the stage. The DALI’s didn’t even flinch. During the review process, I have rocked out to this concert three times, just because it is so much fun on these speakers. $2,500 doesn’t normally buy this much pure rock and roll fun. At least, it didn’t use to. These are speakers that you can play for your buddies with the bravado of “check out what these guys can do.” Your buddies will approve, and maybe even have a touch of envy.
Talking Heads “Stop Making Sense”
Stop Making Sense is a classic 1984 concert movie that allowed David Byrne to cut loose and show us what an entertainer he was on stage. His suit, his moves, and his music all combine for a compelling performance. The original CD left out a few tracks, but a later release added the entire show. Great care was taken in recording each instrument and singer to the point that individual tracks have an almost studio sound, rather than live.
The OBERON 9s were more than capable of delivering the concert with a healthy dose of raw gusto.
On “Psycho Killer”, the kick drum is featured, and the DALIs bring it with lots of weight while remaining tight with no bloating. On “Burning Down the House,” there are two distinct percussion sets, one to stage right and one in stage middle. The Tom-Toms are delicate and quick on the right while Snare and Kick are nicely centered. Byrne’s lyrics are crystal clear on “Life During Wartime,” which is not the case with most speakers under $5,000. The ability of the big DALIs to be so articulate with vocals continued to impress. This includes the girls singing for the “Tom Tom Club” track. We are treated to individual girls singing about their wonderful boyfriends, and each is quite distinct. Let’s call this reproduction of one of Rock’s all-time great movies, a winner.
Various Artists “Masters of Acoustic Guitar”
The DALI OBERON 9s can rock, and do so with authority from the deepest bass to the loudest crescendos. What happens when your audiophile friend with $9,000 monitor speakers wants to challenge them with one of the most difficult instruments to get right, the acoustic guitar? Let’s find out with the anthology CD of Masters of Acoustic Guitar.
This disc starts with Don Ross’s “Afraid to Dance.”
We are treated to agile guitar work with percussion provided by Ross hitting the body of the guitar while playing. Our youngest son teaches guitar professionally, and I frequently get to hear live acoustic guitar. When played right, a single guitar can give a tremendous, wide-range performance. The OBERON 9s bring Ross and his performance to life with a soundstage and emotion that had me reaching for the remote, just to hear it a second time. His percussion combined with the string work was presented in a natural manner. Once again, the OBERON 9s were giving us the entire bandwidth and dynamics.
On track after track, each song was brought to life with the type of realism that made one think “this really is a high-end speaker.” In “Last Train,” there are some instances in which Lawrence Juber hits the strings a bit too hard. If you listen to a live performance of acoustic guitar, when this happens, there is a distorted sound to the instrument. The OBERON 9s delivered this in all its glory. When Juber throttles back a bit, the big guys don’t miss a thing. This is what real guitars sound like, and your audiophile friend might just admit these are great speakers. Tell him they were $15,000. It will make him feel better.
Steely Dan “2 Against Nature”
In 2002, I first used “2 Against Nature” as a standard disc for testing subwoofers, especially regarding how well a subwoofer not only reproduced the synthesized bass notes on this disc but how well it integrated with the main speakers.
As the OBERON 9s were described earlier as being a high-end, two-way monitor with dual 9-inch subwoofers built-in, making “2 Against Nature” the fourth music choice was both logical and fun.
“Gaslighting Abby” opens the disc with a tight, non-synthesized bass track and excellent snare drum work. This track is not a difficult piece of work for most speakers, and it warms one up for the performance that later track tracks provide.
When we slide into “What a Shame About Me,” we enter a new territory. The synthesized bass drum, done right, is felt in the chest. It is so well recorded and seductive that one finds oneself turning up the volume every time. I have auditioned this disc on over 100 subwoofers, including stacked 18-inch Velodynes, Stacked JL Audio Fathom 113’s, and a host of other great performers. The OBERON 9s missed a few of the deepest frequencies (bass hits 16Hz, according to measurements), but they are really close to matching subwoofers which are four times the price of these full-range speakers.
For the rest of the performance, the OBERON 9s again did not disappoint. The title song “2 Against Nature” features excellent bass guitar work along with the Steely Dan vocals fans have relished for decades, and the DALIs bring them into the room.
No discussion about this collection would be complete without a listen to the lecherous “Cousin Dupree.” It is the toe-tapping, mind-cringing telling of Dupree’s fascination with wanting to spend “meaningful time” with his cousin. The DALI’s bring Dupree’s depravity to life, with the punch line from his cousin’s rebuke to his advances, “She said maybe it’s the skeezy look in your eyes,” rendered with a clarity that lets one breathe a sigh of relief, knowing he was shut down.
Our listening room is a purposefully built room for high-end audio listening. For 20 years, we have had audio events in this room, and Carlo Lo Raso, our Co-Editor, has graced us with his visits on over a dozen occasions over the years.
I have been working on a standard measurement for this room, with loudspeakers, using the Dayton Omni-Mic system. The system is widely used in the industry, and it provides accurate measurements which quite predictable repeatable.
Let us first look at and analyze the response curve at the listening position. The speakers were placed 4 meters (13 feet) from the listening position. The sine-wave sweep was taken at 85dB (which translates to 97dB at one meter and over 103dB at one foot). The DALI OBERON 9s managed to be +4dB from 63 to 10,000Hz without any room correction such as DIRAC Live or Audyssey XT-32 applied. We then measured about a 5dB average elevation against the 85dB baseline, from 20 to 63Hz, thanks to the room gain we get in our listening room.
Essentially, this demonstrates that the OBERON 9 is a true full-range reproduction machine with only bass below about 20Hz missing. The listening tests in my room back this up. The deepest bass notes are delivered with authority and no audible distortion.
The THD (total harmonic distortion) sweep is even more impressive. Once again, using the same 85dB sweep at 4 meters, we see THD that stays below 1 percent from 50Hz and up. Even at 20Hz, the peak THD was 2.11 percent, which is an exceptional performance. THD is measured in SPL for the THD into the fundamental. A THD result that is 40 dB below the fundamental is 1 percent THD. In the above measurement, the THD result was more than 40 dB lower than the fundamental across most of the bandwidth, thus below 1 percent THD. This low-level distortion combined with the wide frequency response gives us a picture that demonstrates why these speakers do so many things so well.
For just $2,500, the DALI OBERON 9 floor-standing speaker delivers a high-end full-range speaker experience that easily rivals that of any speaker costing three times as much.
- Deep, tuneful bass
- Sounds great without needing a mega-amp
- Can take what a mega-amp delivers
- Telling your friends, you own Danish speakers
- Expansive sound stage
- Strong physical presence in one’s room
- Excellent detail and clarity
- No flaws of consequence
Walk into an audio store and tell the salesman you want a pair of speakers that can reproduce the fine detail of a female vocalist, the synthesized kick drum in a large arena, and subwoofer level bass to 20Hz. Then tell him (or her) you have $2,500 to spend, and you will likely be told, “This is impossible.” Visit an audio store that carries the DALI OBERON 9, and they will tell you, “Step over here, we have just what you need.”
One of the most difficult products to find in the world of audio today is a speaker that can deliver full-range music and do so with a degree of affordability. The audio world has also, in the last few years, seen a resurgence in two-channel audio. The golden age of two-channel was the late 70s. In that era, one of the most widely sought-after speakers was the Acoustic Research AR-90. It sold for $1,100 per pair or about $4,200 per pair in 2022 dollars. It was reasonably accurate, delivered 32Hz bass, and could play loud if one had a powerful enough amplifier. I had a lot of experience with those ARs during my college days from 1978-82. They were a speaker that, if one mentioned owning them, one received instant approval as an audiophile who knew how to rock n’ roll. Advent, Acoustic Research, Altec Lansing, and Electro-voice were all known for having audiophile speakers that were desirable, powerful, and affordable. Those wonderful speaker companies no longer make products that fill the need for a full range, two-channel system.
The DALI OBERON 9 speakers are, in terms of performance, the reincarnation of these legends from the late 1970s. They take that performance from those speakers of the last century and elevate it in every aspect. You can get great results with two-channel amps from Rotel, NAD, Marantz, or a host of other fine amplifiers from other companies. If you want to experience more, they can take it. I ran an Axiom ADA-1500 amplifier (325 WPC @ 8 0hms with gobs of dynamic headroom) and kicked out some serious AC/DC from their “Live at Donnington” concert, and my ears gave out long before the speakers even hinted at distortion.
DALI checked as many boxes as is possible with the OBERON 9s. If you are looking for a two-channel system, and don’t want the fuss of adding a subwoofer for deep bass, the OBERON 9s will deliver with aplomb. If you want a tower that can be the main front speakers in a home theater, the OBERON 9s will match perfectly with the OBERON VOKAL center channel and any of their fine surround speakers. For $2,500, you will be hard-pressed to find a speaker with this level of performance.